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In February 2012, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) launched a program to support the creation and institutionalization of a unified national bar association and to promote an impartial access to justice in Kyrgyzstan. The program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, offers skills-building trainings for attorneys and advocates.
The absence of a unified national bar association has resulted in limited career development and networking opportunities, as well as lack of professional standards, for the country’s lawyers. In addition to fostering legislative reforms that support the development of well-qualified attorneys, we also work with local organizations, such as the Advocates Training Center (ATC), to address lawyers’ training and professional networking needs. Established with ABA ROLI support in 2008, the ATC is the only local institution that provides consistent and quality continuing legal education for practicing lawyers throughout Kyrgyzstan. The center offers trainings on a variety of substantive laws and trial skills.
Additionally, ABA ROLI has partnered with the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic to update and improve the process for attorney and advocate licensure. A working group of local experts revised the attorney-qualification exam while ABA ROLI developed an electronic testing platform, which is expected to be rolled out in 2014.
The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is working with law schools to incorporate practical skills and interactive teaching methodologies into the schools’ curricula. As part of this U.S. Agency for International Development-funded initiative, we work with universities to support clinical legal education and to institutionalize curriculum reform.
We support six legal clinics in Bishkek, Osh and Jalalabad that provide university students with hands-on experience and offer legal aid to indigent clients. An ABA ROLI-initiated inter-university working group has also developed and published three courses that have been adopted into the curricula at six universities. The courses equip students with the skills necessary to interview clients, to navigate pre-trial procedures and to effectively participate in trial procedures. In addition, ABA ROLI has sponsored two national client counseling competitions for law students in 2012 and in 2013.
This work builds upon ABA ROLI’s assistance to legal clinics across Kyrgyzstan beginning in 2001. Since 2005, these clinics have provided free legal services to almost 10,000 citizens who could otherwise not have afforded to pay for a lawyer. Further, ABA ROLI helped eight law schools introduce a legal ethics course into their curricula and publish related textbooks. It also organized mock trials and moot court competitions to increase law students’ trial advocacy skills.